Monthly Archives: November 2012

Crazy Kathmandu – with a capital K

Nepal thus far has the strangest history I have yet to come across.

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In 2001 the heir to the Nepal Royal throne, Prince Dipendra, massacred 9 members of his family at the Narayanhity Royal Palace. The victim list included the then King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya (his parents), who reportedly had chosen a wife for Prince Dipendra who he did not want.

Shortly after the massacre, Dipendra shot himself and died a few days later. This left the throne to Nepal open, and thus Prince Gyanendra, brother of the late King Birendra, became king. There are many conspiracy theories as to what actually happened the night of the massacre – and I love a good conspiracy theory.

While doing some research on Prince Gyanendra I found some more crazy history. After his birth, his father was told by a court astrologer not to look at his newborn son because it would bring him bad luck, so Gyanendra was sent to live with his grandmother. He would later reign as King twice in the Nepali history.

His first reign occurred in 1950-1951, during a political plot, which saw both his father and his grandfather King Tribhuvan (amoungst other royals) flee to India. This left the young Prince Gyanendra (age 3) as the only male member of the royal family in Nepal. He was brought back to the capital Kathmandu by the then Prime Minister, Mohan Shamsher, and declared King. Once political stability had been regained in Nepal, his grandfather returned and resumed the throne.

I found the Nepalis history intriguing. After spending 3 months in India, the country north of the Indian boarder could not be anymore different.

Jumping forward from the past – Kathmandu now is a bigger city than you would think. Big, dusty and super busy. A place where face masks are more of a necessity than a fashion accessory. My buff had never come in more useful.

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From the moment I crossed the boarder, I knew that Nepal is vastly different to India. For one their person per capita is far less than that of India and it was awesome seeing the huge open rice paddies growing on the sides of the Himalayan mountain range.

20121109-194120.jpgPrayer flags seen at night

If you ever get to Kathmandu – do go visit the Green Organic Cafe in Thamel, Kathmandu. One of the best grilled tofu and veg dishes I have ever had. Nepal is not as geared for vegetarians as what India was – so it was lovely finding a great cafe, with not only an incredible vibe, but an awesome selection for vegetarians.

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More Nepal adventures to follow soon.

Categories: Nepal | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

With sadness bye bye India

There are some things that I really don’t want to forget about India. For close to 3 months, I have called India home (albeit a temporary nomadic home, it was home nevertheless).

20121109-200339.jpgAmazing sunsets in Kerala

I thought I would put them in a blog post (more for me more than for you), but if you ever get to India these are a few random things you might see and do.

The first thing that struck me was the swastika symbol. Apparently Hitler had stolen it from India, and the original meaning behind it is really beautiful!

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Thanks Wikipedia: “It remains widely used in Indian religions, specifically in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, primarily as a tantric symbol to evoke shakti (meaning peace) or the sacred symbol of auspiciousness. The word “swastika” comes from the Sanskrit svastika – “su” meaning “good,” “asti” meaning “to be,” and “ka” as a suffix. The swastika literally means “to be good”. Or another translation can be made: “swa” is “higher self”, “asti” meaning “being”, and “ka” as a suffix, so the translation can be interpreted as “being with higher self”.”

Pity how such a beautiful begining was turned into such a horror.

Some things that I wont forget:
– Weird time differences – 3.5 hours different from home. I’ve never been to a zone which breaks the hour.

– Posting parcels home – where it takes you a whole day to get it done. Forget African time, India takes it to a whole new level. The parcel needs to be inspected by customs, weighed, then wrapped in white clothe, stitched closed and sealed with wax.

– Constant change problems. A Rs200 note would make all the difference to the current Rs 100, Rs500 and Rs1000 large notes.

– Amazingly sweet chai available everywhere. The best chai comes from street vendors who boil all ingredients right then and there in front of you.

Things I’ll be happy to forget:
– The dirt. There a literally no dirt-bins in India and locals throw plastic on the ground or simply burn heaps of plastic in the street. I wont even go into the affects of burning plastic on the environment, but after watching cows eat what had been thrown onto the ground, I am happy to be a vegetarian.

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– The spitting. At times you need to watch men and woman closely to ensure that you don’t get spat on. Its such a large part of their culture that there are ‘Spitting’ buckets in some parks (no bins, but spitting buckets?! Go figure).

– Every culture has a habit that is seen as common ground in one culture, yet rude in another. This applies to loud public burping and nasal clearing snorting, which alway seemed to happen while in a yoga or meditation class.

I know my three point above are me judging a culture. I may have brought them across as negatives here, but they did teach me a lot when it comes to accepting others and keeping an open mind while discovering my world.

Another little negative is the sale of semi precious stones in India. I met a Nepali jeweler who was trying to sell me semi-precious stones and after being ripped off in Varkala, I was hesitant. He laughed and said “I.N.D.I.A – I’ll Never Do It Again”, and with regards to precious stones or precious materials I dont actually have experience in – I think I’ll stick to my jeweler in South Africa for my jewellery needs from now on.

Having said that though… My 3 months spent in India were life changing.

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Remembering the first rickshaw driver that ripped me off, to the last one I took to leave India. How different my attitude was and how sweet and polite I was back then. Remembering how easy it is to get around India – trains, planes, buses and rickshaw rides that I will never forget.

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Remembering food – yummy yummy vegetarian food available EVERYWHERE and with such wide varieties – non of those one liners in menus – whole restaurants dedicated to vegetarians. From paratha’s in Kerala to banana lassis found everywhere – India is a culinary delight.

20121109-203217.jpgGranted momos are Tibetan – they still very yummy

20121109-204310.jpgMasala Dosa – traditional breakies

Remembering temples, statues of Shiva and Ganesh, holy rivers and sacred festivals.

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Remembering forts, palaces, holy elephants and army horses.

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Remembering colour, laughs, crazy yoga and train rides.

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Most of all – I never want to forget the amazing people I met along the way and finding awe-inspiring peace in McLeod Ganj

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Little travel tips:
– If a train is full you can buy a ‘Tatkal’ ticket (emergency ticket) from the train station on the day of travel;
– By telling local touts that this isn’t your first time in the country will mean that you’re less likely to be ripped off. I know this sounds strange – but I noticed how prices of things varied hugely just by answering the “First time in India?” with a NO;
– The price of ANYTHING (often including guesthouses) is a third of what they quote you. Local touts have the mentality that if you’re willing to pay first price, then you deserve to be ripped off;
– Do get to Rajasthan and see some incredible forts. Even if places seem to be out of the travelers way, it is well worth it

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Namaste
Xx

Categories: India | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

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